China-Africa Development Forum Underway in UCC

The Confucius Institute at the University of Cape-Coast (CI-UCC), in conjunction with the Centre for African and International Studies (CAIS), has held the 2017 China-African Urban Development Forum at the University of Cape Coast (UCC). The forum, aimed at providing a platform for researchers and practitioners to discuss issues related to urban development, is on the theme “Sustainable Urban Development in Contemporary Times”.  It is also open to practitioners – planners - who work within the urban areas to exchange ideas in order to extend the frontiers of urban research and also promote sustainable urban development. Delivering the keynote address on the theme “Policy Interventions and Programmes towards the Upgrading of Slums in Ghana: the Role of the Ministry of Inner-City and Zongo Development”, the Minister of Inner City and Zongo Development, Hon.  Boniface Abubakar Saddique, pointed out that Inner-City and Zongo Communities (ICZCs) were vital part of the rich fabric that defined the urban tapestry and, therefore, could not be sidelined in  Ghana’s quest to develop. He said the urban landscape of Ghana was undergoing radical transformation and modernization following the proliferation of superstructures such as shopping malls, upscale residential estate housing, international standard hotels and other high rise commercial buildings. According to the Minister, such developments have resulted in a “burgeoning urban divide with affluent communities”. Citing Accra as an  example, he said there were more affluent communities like Airport Residential area, Dzorwulu and Cantonments, whilst there were also slums in Nima, Maamobi, Sabon Zongo and Sodom and Gomorrah (Old Fadama). However, Hon. Saddique said these Inner-City Zongo slums areas had played critical role in Ghana’s socio-economic development through the provision of affordable housing for the poor and the marginalized. He said slum dwellers were confronted with a number of socio-economic challenges due to the unplanned nature of such communities. The Minister further revealed that slums lacked basic services, including water and sanitation. He opined that successive governments neglected Inner-City Zongo communities  in their implementation of the country’s development programmes, which have affected the quality of life of their (ICZCs') dwellers. It is against this backdrop, Hon. Saddique said  the New Patriotic Party (NPP) under the leadership of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo had created the Ministry of Inner-City and Zongo Development. The Minister said the creation of the Ministry would help Ghana to make giant strides towards the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goal 10, which focuses on reducing inequalities within and among countries. He gave the assurance that Inner-City Zongo communities in the country would benefit from the Zongo Development Fund, which is aimed at uplifting the condition of the Zongo communities across the country. Hon. Saddique noted that  government had envisaged potential challenges that the Fund would face, such as undue politicization and conflicts due to competing interests. He, therefore, called on community level stakeholders, academia, political parties and development partners to support the government to achieve its visions. For his part, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Prof. D.D Kuupole, speaking on the theme “ Urban Development in Contemporary Times”, said urbanization stemmed from increasing population in urban areas, mainly as a result of rural-urban migration which culminates into cities and towns. Therefore, he said urbanization was one of the driving forces which necessitated the need to develop urban areas. He said multi-linguicism creates the opportunity for effective and efficient socio-cultural dialogue require for the development of a unique urban culture which transcends some cultural boundaries. The former Vice-Chancellor noted that multi-linguicism, at times, made it difficult for policy makers to decide which language should be used  in schools as a medium of interaction. He said the rising population in the urban areas could also lead to tension between the indigenous language of the urban area and the assimilated language. Prof. Kuupole said the myriad of challenges associated with urbanization and multi-linguicism could be addressed through  integrated linguistic framework and the day- to -day interaction amongst divergent city dwellers. He was of the firm conviction that multi-linguicism  was instrinsically linked  to urban development. To this end, he said, "For the various individuals in this context (urban development) to survive, they must relate to one another and in doing so they must communicate through languages that translates their share values and aspirations".  Prof. Kuupole further called for tolerance, accomodation of varied opinions, consensus building and mutual respect among members within urban communities for rapid urban development. On his part, the Chineese Ambassador to Ghana, Her Excellency Sun Baohong, in a speech read on her behalf by the China Director of the Confucius Institute at UCC, Prof. Hu Liangai, said China was committed to promoting Sustainable Urban Development. She said China and Ghana enjoyed a longstanding bond of traditional friendship and rapid development in co-operation in economics, trade, education and other fields. Ambassador Sun Baohong thanked the University of Cape Coast and added that  the Chinese Embassy would spare no efforts to support the development of the institute at the University.  The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Ghartey Ampiah, lauded the collaboration between UCC and  Hunan City University,China, for moving beyond cultural exchange and language barrier to organise the Forum. He described  the timing of the forum as apt , saying “ we have a new government with a focus of rural and urban development with special emphasis on the Zongos, which are found in both rural and urban communities in Ghana.” Some students who had excelled academically in the Chinese Language were giving certificates.